America’s Anti-Chinese Bigotry Has a Very Old Stench

Olfactory Racism Has Long Stigmatized Chinese Airs and Smells as a Threat to U.S. Public Health and Safety

Since the early months of COVID-19, people assumed to be Chinese have been stared at, yelled at, coughed on, spit on, sprayed with Febreze, beaten, splashed with acid, pushed, stabbed, and murdered—for wearing masks, for not wearing masks, for coughing, for sneezing, and sometimes for simply occupying public space. I have thought twice about spending time in public on days when allergies to cats, pollen, or wildfire smoke might make me susceptible to the hazards of “coughing while Asian.”

The anti-Asian violence was spurred on by widespread rhetoric projecting blame for …